Plaid are Anything but Plain

Plaid

If one band encapsulates Warp Records‘ stranger tendencies, then it has to Plaid. Starting out in the dancefloor-confounding Black Dog Productions, Andy Turner and Ed Handley have been pushing the boundaries of electro, techno and synthetic music since way back in 1995, and still seem to be light years ahead of the curve fifteen years on.

The band’s latest album ‘Scintilli’ is their first, in eight years. Restlessly creative as ever, delivering lovely twisty melodies and nice crispy beats, it’s already being pushed as one of the best IDM records of the year, thanks mainly to its blend of brooding, percussive electronica with the more free-form elements of the duo’s soundtrack work.

With the official launch party coming up at Village Underground on Friday, I caught up with Andy and Ed to talk about the tyranny of choice, still getting excited by good old fashioned vinyl and hints at a possible John Cage influence in their next album…

What’s the reaction been to ‘Scintili’ so far?

We’ve had some great feedback. Nothing negative from the public, a few bitchy reviews from the press, but people have written saying they didn’t like it at first but that it’s grown to be their favorite from us.

That’s a good sign as far as we’re concerned, I doubt anyone has listened to it more than us and we’re still into it.

This is your first ‘proper’ album in a while. I bet you were itching to get back after the collaborations/soundtracks?

We learnt a lot from the film work and we’d be happy to do more. Collaborations can be diverting but we pick up new skills along the way and these can be applied when we write our own material.

We’re pretty old school and still get a thrill from vinyl. This is the first thing we’ve had in that format for eight years or so. That’s been very nice!

After more than twenty years you’re as hard to pigeon-hole as ever. Is that just an inevitable by-product of two decades of inventiveness?

Pigeon holes have never looked particularly comfortable. With our own material we never write with an end goal or style in mind. Writing that way would feel a little dishonest.

What would you say the single biggest innovation in electronic music has been?

The computer – anyone with an idea can just lay it down now. Analogue synths and outboard gear sound great, but are prohibitively expensive for most people.

The internet means they can share their creations too. Has there been a proliferation of electronic musicians, or are people just getting better at getting their stuff out there?

There’s far more music available and being written. There’s far too much emulation though. It’s a cliché to say “it all sounds the same” but so much of it does. Finding the gems is far more difficult in some ways now because there’s so much material to wade through.

Yeah, the internet is great for connecting you to the global music scene, but it definitely seems that there is just so much out there that it’s become hard to process. Do you find that you have to cut yourself off to get things done?

We don’t tend to listen to much while writing. Every experience has an influence. The internet has made it possible to find any style of music but also far more difficult to earn a living from creating it.

So, who or what are you guys listening to at the moment?

Ed muttering because some code isn’t working properly, a fan is spinning, a plane is passing, occasionally a berry is dropping down on the roof of the shed; still haven’t worked out what type they are… John Cage was onto something.

Scintilli is available to buy now, Plaid will be officially launching it with a show at the Village Underground on 7 October.

This article first appeared on Spoonfed on 3 October 2011

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